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Putting good music to use

by The Concordian September 6, 2011
Four years ago, FM Hi LOW was a mere sparkle in Fraser MacDougall’s eye. Even though he began by performing on his own, his recordings boasted full-band flavour. Yet he was still a one-man band, performing all the instruments and vocals on his first record Up On the Hillside.
Over the next three and a half years, he searched for band members and worked on his sound, but until this past May he experienced a revolving door of bassists and drummers.
“[With] all the other previous rhythm sections, we lived together and it was like 24 hours a day with each other,”said MacDougall, admitting that turning friends into professional musicians wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be. “My new approach was to find great professional musicians and then make them my friends.”
Luckily, this method was successful. Since he “put out the vibes” as he called it, MacDougall has adopted Simon “Dizzy” Veillet on bass guitar and bass synth, and Sarah Dion on back-up vocals and drums as permanent fixtures in FM Hi LOW.
MacDougall found Veillet by posting an ad on the Internet. Veillet’s audition ended favourably and, afterward, the two had a barbecue to celebrate. But all the fun led to Veillet feeling lightheaded and when he got up to excuse himself, he wound up fainting, slamming his face against a wall, and driving his glasses into his eye. This accident resulted in a trip to the emergency room, four stitches, some serious brotherly bonding and how he got the nickname “Dizzy.”
After his recovery, Veillet recalled jamming with a talented drummer a few months earlier and suggested to MacDougall they invite her over to jam with them.
“It was an instant yes,” said MacDougall, and a few weeks later called upon Veillet and Dion to complete his musical trio.
MacDougall describes their sound as “movement music for the body and mind. It’s danceable music. It’s groovy music. It’s based in reggae and funk and hip-hop and all those fun groovy kinds of music.”  Lately they’ve been dabbling in dubstep, playing a live set with heavy bass rhythms and a more electronic resonance.
After a couple of shows in Montreal, they performed at two large festivals along the east coast this summer: Folly Fest in Gagetown, New Brunswick where they played alongside Grand Theft Bus, and Evolve Festival in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where major acts like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Pretty Lights also took the stage. Now, they are back in Montreal and ready for a homecoming.
But FM Hi LOW is not just another band that wants to get you on your feet; they have a message they want to share. Their lyrics are embedded with themes of social justice, the environment and other topics they feel need to be discussed in popular culture.
“I think music is a very powerful thing,” said MacDougall. “It could hold within it messages and things that may get people thinking or motivate them to change the way that they live or they interact with others so that we can make this change possible.”
Their song “Take the Back Roads” reiterates their beliefs with the repeating line, “Come on people / Let’s all get equal / Let’s all get equal / And evolve.”
FM Hi LOW practices what it preaches, aiming to make music that can resonate with people of any age, class, or social group. They have a sound that is universal; it reaches beyond categories and styles by blending musical influences with the same unifying intention.
How their music is classified comes second to how it feels. “The music is a vibe,” explained MacDougall. “It’s a positive energy. It’s a life force that people can use in their daily lives in order to keep them motivated through the bad stuff they have to deal with.”You can catch FM Hi LOW in concert Sept. 9 at the Movement Music Loft, 391 Chatham St. For more information and their latest album Up On the Hillside visit www.fmhilow.com.

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